Should I Skip Breakfast To Lose Weight? It Works For Some, But Not Others. So What Does The Research Say?
You're reading this because you want to lose weight in the fasted possible way. And with so much talk of fasting potentially being the fat loss miracle you so desperately want, you wonder, "should I skip breakfast to lose weight?"
Some say YES, and that fasting is the best thing since the sliced bread you didn't have this morning. Whereas, others cling onto the old adage of 'breakfast being the most important meal of the day.'
But who's right?
Is anyone right?
Or is this yet another nutrition debate over nothing?
In this article, you'll find out what the research says from both sides of the fence. Then, you can make up your own mind, based on the facts.
Here's what you'll be reading about over the next few minutes.
- Why the pro-breakfast crew will tell you skipping breakfast is BAD.
- The unbiased view of the research.
- Why fucking up your routine might be a good idea, breakfast or no breakfast.
- Does breakfast make you less focused?
- Why skipping breakfast might fine for retaining muscle, but sub-optimal for building it.
So whether you're reading this with your morning cornflakes, or at 12pm as you take your first bites of food for the day, scroll on if you want the definitive answer as to whether or not you should skip breakfast to lose weight.
Should I Skip Breakfast To Lose Weight? What The Pro-Breakfast Crew Will Tell You
"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day" is a phrase I grew up hearing and I'm sure you did too. No-one knows quite where it came from. You just took it as gospel, because your Mum said so. Chaining you to the kitchen table, and making you finish your porridge, before letting you rush off to school.
And, more recently, the notion of skipping breakfast gets uttered in the same breath as starvation mode. The argument seemingly being that if you don't eat for a few hours, your body is going to store more body fat, as it reverts to a protective 'I don't know where the next meal is coming from' state.
But is there any evidence for the argument outside of what your Mum and a few social media gurus say?
Making The Case To Not Skip Breakfast
It doesn't actually take much effort to make a convincing argument that having breakfast is the healthier option.
For example, you could look at this study which concluded eating breakfast was associated with lower BMI versus choosing to skip breakfast.
"Eating cereal (ready-to-eat or cooked cereal) or quick breads for breakfast is associated with significantly lower body mass index compared to skipping breakfast or eating meats and/or eggs for breakfast."
Or maybe this one, which showed health and weight loss advantages for those not skipping breakfast.
"Results suggest dietary and weight advantages of consuming breakfast in contrast to the potential adverse effects of skipping breakfast."
And I could attempt to further convince you those morning Lucky Charms were a good idea by highlighting this study which linked breakfast cereal consumption and a lower BMI.
"Regular consumption of breakfast cereals results in a lower BMI and a reduced likelihood of being overweight in children and adolescents."
Don't Believe Everything You Read
It might be no surprise to you that this isn't quite the full, and balanced view. In fact, it's weighted more unevenly than an elephant playing seesaw with a 2 year-old. And the reason for that is two-fold.
Firstly, the studies are observational. So correlation doesn't necessarily equal causation. Remember, just because there's a correlation between leaving school at 16 and teenage pregnancy, doesn't mean the act of leaving school at 16 makes you pregnant.
Obviously, fans of intermittent fasting might disagree with that statement. But when you look at the broader population, not just a narrow view of your own world, it's generally the case.
Should I Skip Breakfast To Lose Weight? What Science Says
Given that the research can be skewed in favour of your Granny's nutrition knowledge, what does the more balanced view suggest?
Well, a number of studies have concluded that there's really no difference when it comes to losing weight, increasing metabolism, and improving cardiovascular health. Therefore, it appears to come down to your own personal preference.
An idea further compounded by this study showing natural breakfast skippers ate more calories and gained weight when they switched to eating breakfast. A pretty logical conclusion, as adding an extra meal into your habitual diet is likely to cause an increase in calorie consumption.
However, there might be a case for playing havoc with your well-planned routine and turn everything on its head.
Fucking Up Your Routine Might Be A Great Idea
When working with online coaching clients, my first instinct is to create a nutrition programme that fits seamlessly into their lifestyle. After all, you want to to feel effortless, not a completely overhaul of your life, right?
But there is evidence to hint that throwing a cat, stuffed with a hand grenade, amongst the breakfast pigeons might lead to more weight loss.
In this study, researchers showed that habitual breakfast eaters, forced to skip breakfast lost 2.7kg more, over 12 weeks, than those who stuck to their normal habits. And it worked the other way too (that's what she said). Those who typically chose to skip breakfast, lost 1.7g more when forced to include the extra meal.
So it goes to show that simply fucking with your life might work out well. After all, if it's not working for you now, maybe a complete change is what you need. As Einstein said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
Essentially, you've got options. Either stick with what you're doing if you enjoy it and it works for you. Or jam a stick in the spokes of your routine and force yourself down a different path.
But before you do that, let's talk about your brain. Because a criticism often thrown at those choosing to skip breakfast is that it fucks with brain function.
If You Skip Breakfast, You'll Be Less Focused
You may have heard that eating breakfast is important for getting you day off to a good start. It gets your brain functioning properly and stops you feeling hungry. Don't forget, it's the most important meal of the day, right?
But research has shown there's really no difference in your cognitive function when it comes to skipping breakfast or not. In fact, it might even be detrimental to memory and mental fatigue. We've all had those feelings of lethargy later in the day after being fed. Like human version of Jabba The Hut, nursing his fat belly after one too many Klatooine Paddy Frogs.
And if you're a parent, there's no need to worry about packing your kids off to school with a full belly either. If you want to be a family who skip breakfast together, that's cool. Your kid's brains won't turn into mushy porridge as a result.
"But Simon. I get that it doesn't make much difference for fat loss, but what about the gains?"
Good question. So does skipping breakfast affect your ability to build muscle, or does the gain train not have a breakfast buffet?
Your Decision To Skip Breakfast Might Not Be Great For Gains
If your goal is to build muscle, then meal frequency does matter. Specifically, protein frequency. So by opting to skip breakfast, you might not be making the most amount of progress possible.
You see, when it comes to building muscle, the goal is to achieve positive net protein balance. In English, that means Muscle Protein Synthesis (the building of new muscle) should exceed Muscle Protein Breakdown. Therefore, managing your protein intake across the day is the most optimal way to achieve this.
So, skipping breakfast and fasting for a lengthy period of the day will limit your ability to spike Leucine (an amino acid crucial to the muscle building process) an optimal amount of times throughout the day.
But ask yourself, "Does that even matter?" Because being optimal sounds great, but in reality you might be sacrificing enjoyment of life for minimal gains. If fasting allows you to have bigger, more satisfying meals later in the day, do that if it makes you happy.
And if you want the Iron Paradise Fitness optimal protein feeding strategy, here it is.
The Optimal Protein Frequency Strategy For Building Muscle
With the proliferation of high protein diets, it's my guess you're consuming c. 1.8-2.0g/kg of protein per day, which is good. But how about we take that from good to great? Here's your optimal protein frequency strategy for maximum gains.
- 4-6 protein servings per day.
- 2-3 main meals x 0.4/0.5g/kg.
- A post workout shake x 0.3g/kg
- Large pre-bed protein meal x 0.5-0.6g/kg
Should I Skip Breakfast To Lose Weight? The Bottom Line
When it comes to losing weight and retaining muscle, there's no significant advantage to skipping breakfast where calorie intake is matched.
If your goal is to lose weight, then you have options when it comes to breakfast. And I don't just mean bacon and eggs versus cereal. Whether you chose to skip breakfast or not is entirely up to you. There's no significant weight loss advantage to either approach.
However, if one particular option helps you stick to your calorie deficit, then great, do that. Your other option is to have a flexible approach and use both scenarios interchangeably. For example, clients following The Lean Life Method online coaching programme may opt to skip breakfast when on vacation or planning for a night out, in order to save up calories.
Equally, you can choose to completely disrupt your regular routine. Often, this creates buy-in to the process, the feeling that you're committed to doing something completely different.
Although, it really comes back to finding the strategy that works for you. Now you know, you don't have to skip breakfast to lose weight faster, your decision comes down to what will make you most happy.
So if munching your way through a couple of slices of toast with the morning paper is your thing, awesome. Or if you prefer to grab a quick coffee on the run and save calories for a few more indulgences in the evening, that's cool too.
Your Next Step To Mastering Nutrition And Shaping A Leaner, Healthier, Stronger Body
Here’s what to do next to get on the fast track to a leaner, healthier, stronger body. Simply click the link below and I’ll send you my Lean Life Kickstarter Pack. In it you’ll find a free 4 week beginner’s training programme (complete with exercise videos and a workout tracker), a guide on calculating your calories, plus so much more.
If you want it, grab it here.
But for now, all I’ll say is… Keep living the Lean Life and I’ll see you soon.